Zadar is a beautiful and fun city on the Adriatic coast of Croatia. While Zadar is an awesome destination on its own, it also makes a great launch pad for exploring many surrounding places, from national parks to historic towns. Read on to discover 9 wonderful day trips from Zadar, Croatia, to add to your itinerary!
Croatia’s idyllic beauty is best experienced by visiting its small towns, beautiful national parks, lovely islands, and beautiful beaches. Especially if you visit from late spring to early fall, you have a wealth of exploring opportunities from any of Croatia’s large cities, including Zadar.
While a car can definitely make it very convenient to do day trips and stop where you please, Croatia has an efficient bus network, and ferry services in season. Many of the day trips from Zadar I have listed below can be done using public transport. You can also opt for guided excursions.
THE BEST DAY TRIPS FROM ZADAR
Whether you are looking for extraordinary natural beauty, charming coastal towns with hilltops to conquer, or sun-soaked beaches for a spot of relaxation, you’ll find just the right day trip destination from Zadar.
Here are 9 wonderful day trips from Zadar for your itinerary.
#1 Admire the beauty of Plitvice Lakes National Park
The most iconic day trip from Zadar is to Plitvice Lakes National Park. With its 16 jewel-colored lakes and multitude of waterfalls, the UNESCO designated gem is a must on any Croatia itinerary.
Nestled in the midst of emerald forests, the lakes range from gray to emerald to aquamarine, depending on the light. The forests are home to deer, bear, and wolves, and lots of bird life.
And the waterfalls! From Veliki Slap, which tumbles 256 feet to the bottom, to tiny little falls that cascade over little rocks, you will see them everywhere in the park.
You tour the park on boardwalks over the water (very exciting!) or pathways along the water. Your admission includes a boat ride across Kozjak Lake, and rides on the park shuttle.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is gorgeous in the summer, but late spring and early fall are better times to visit, with fewer crowds and lower admission fees. Spring brings lush greenery and lots of wildflowers, and fall foliage creates a stunning backdrop for the water.
You can buy admission tickets online ahead of your visit. You will need to exchange the online vouchers for actual tickets at the park ticket office, so allow for enough time prior to your allotted entrance time.
Getting from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes National Park
The distance from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes National Park is about 84 miles, and in normal traffic, it will take you about 1 hour and 30 minutes to drive to the park.
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If you want to use public transport to get to Plitvice Lakes from Zadar, take the bus! There are several departures in both directions daily, especially between April and October.
The bus journey times vary, but you should be able to choose one of the buses that takes about one hour and 45 minutes one way. If you take the first bus in the morning, you will have plenty of time to do the longest route in the park.
There are bus stops at both Entrance 1 and Entrance 2 to Plitvice Lakes National Park. They look like little log huts.
To book bus (and train) tickets for Europe in advance, consider Omio. I found the booking experience easy and hassle-free. They do charge a small service fee but I thought it was well worth the convenience!
By guided tour
Prefer the structure of a guided tour? Check out this highly rated full day tour that offers the opportunity to tour both the Upper Lakes and the Lower Lakes, along with the boat tour.
#2 Swim under a waterfall at Krka National Park
For another beautiful national park day trip with acclaimed waterfalls, but a very different experience from Plitvice Lakes, head to Krka National Park.
The big attraction in Krka National Park is the Skrandinski buk waterfall. A series of 17 cascades, distributed in an eye-pleasing design, the wall of water is literally jaw dropping.
You can swim in the plunge pool at Skrandinski buk, so remember your swimsuit if you wish to take a dip. People were swimming in the pool when we visited in the later part of May!
To get to Skrandinski buk from the park entrance at Lozovac, take the tourist train in season, or walk down the hill to the start of the trail. From here, beautiful boardwalks lead you to the main attraction.
If you are visiting on your own, you can tour other parts of the park, such as Roški slap, Visovac Island, or Manojlovac slap, the tallest waterfall in the park. Inquire at the ticket office about your options on the day you visit.
Although summer is the best time to visit if you wish to swim, Skrandinski buk gets super crowded during the day in high season. Pick the shoulder seasons of late spring and early fall for a less crowded and more enjoyable experience.
You can buy your tickets for Krka National Park online in advance. Admission fees are highest between June and September.
Getting from Zadar to Krka National Park
The distance from Zadar to Krka National Park is about 48 miles, and in normal traffic, it will take you just under one hour to drive to the Lozovac entrance to Krka National Park from Zadar.
If you want to use public transport to get to Krka National Park from Zadar, take the bus! Direct routes between Zadar and the Skradin entrance to Krka National Park operate for much of the year, with more frequent departures in high season.
The direct bus journey from Zadar to Krka National Park takes about one hour. The bus stop at the Skradin entrance to Krka National Park is very close to the park entrance: less than 500 feet.
If you visit in the winter and can’t find a direct bus to the park from Zadar, you can travel to Sibenik, and then take a local bus to the park.
By guided tour
If you prefer the convenience of a guided tour, consider this full day tour to Krka National Park that will allow you to experience the magic of the Skradinski buk trail and waterfall, and enjoy a swim if you wish. You’ll arrive at the Skradin entrance, and enjoy a 30-minute boat ride within the park.
#3 Enjoy the history at Šibenik
Šibenik is a coastal Croatian gem that boasts not one but two UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you enjoy history, you must definitely add a day trip from Zadar to Šibenik to your itinerary for Dalmatia.
Right at the entrance to the old town is the Cathedral of Saint James, one of the UNESCO designated sites, and a gorgeous Renaissance structure. The Fortress of Saint Nicholas, shaped like a triangle, was recently added to the UNESCO list.
There are actually four fortresses in Šibenik. St. Michael’s Fortress is the most easily accessed. From here you can get great views of the city and the water.
Strolling through the old town, called the Civitas Sacra, is a joy, because there are so many beautiful buildings to admire and squares to wander. You’ll be climbing up and down a lot of steps though, so be warned!
If you prefer your wanderings to be structured, and you arrived on your own, join a 2-hour walking tour that includes all the major sights in the old town.
Getting from Zadar to Sibenik
The distance from Zadar to Šibenik is about 55 miles, and in normal traffic, it will take you about one hour to drive to Sibenik from Zadar.
If you want to use public transport to get to Šibenik from Zadar, take the bus! There are frequent departures in both directions everyday. The journey takes about one hour and 30 minutes.
In Sibenik, the bus station is just a 5-minute walk from the old town, so the bus is a really convenient way to travel to Sibenik independently.
By guided tour
Prefer a guided tour? Check out this full day tour that combines a visit to Krka National Park with a visit to Sibenik! You’ll have the opportunity to swim at Krka and visit Visovac island before heading to Sibenik, where you can walk the old town and visit the Saint James Cathedral.
#4 Explore the charms of Split
Split is a large city, but you’d never know that once you enter the Diocletian Palace, Split’s old town. Walk along the Riva, the waterfront promenade, and enter the Palace through one of its four gates.
Split’s Diocletian Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s not just one building, it’s the entire old town. With many squares, a labyrinth of streets, and a cathedral complex, Diocletian’s Palace is both unique and gawkworthy.
If you are planning to visit Split on your own, you might want to invest in a guided tour of the palace, for an efficient walk through the must-not-miss parts of the complex and some interesting context for what you are viewing.
After you’ve had your fill of the old town, you can head up Marjan Hill for viewpoints that provide panoramic vistas over the city and the water. If you’re feeling energetic, there are walking trails at the top.
Getting from Zadar to Split
The distance from Zadar to Split is about 98 miles, and in normal traffic, it will take you about one hour and 30 minutes to drive to Split from Zadar.
Take the bus if you wish to get to Split from Zadar using public transport! Journey times between Zadar and Split vary, but the faster buses take about 2 hours and 30 minutes. Opt for a direct bus that uses the freeway.
There are frequent departures in both directions everyday. In Split, the bus station is just a 10-minute walk from the old town, and the walk is mainly along the beautiful waterfront promenade.
By guided tour
Prefer a guided tour? Check out this private full day tour that combines a visit to Trogir, another coastal gem and a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a visit to Split.
#5 Visit the spectacular Kornati National Park
Zadar is the ideal base from which to explore Kornati National Park. An archipelago made up of 89 islands and reefs, Kornati National Park is an offshore paradise you must definitely put on your day trip list!
The Kornati archipelago is the densest group of islands you’ll find in the Mediterranean Sea. It is made up of 140+ islands, small and large. The largest island in the group is Kornat.
There are no permanent settlements on the Kornati islands. Residents from nearby Murter Island own much of the land, where they tend olive groves, vineyards, and orchards.
The National Park offers a variety of activities, including sailing, snorkeling, and swimming. The park is home to a variety of flora and fauna as well. The beautiful coves, tall cliffs, and deep blue waters are breathtakingly beautiful on good weather days.
Getting from Zadar to Kornati National Park
The only way to access Kornati National Park is by boat, your own or rented. But by far the most popular and convenient way to visit Kornati National Park is to join a guided excursion.
By guided tour
Consider this full day sailing tour to the Kornati National Park! The excursion from Zadar includes free time for swimming or snorkeling and is a fabulous way to see the gorgeous landscapes of the islands.
#6 Discover Trogir + Primosten
If you love history and atmospheric towns, you will love this day trip that takes you to two beautiful Croatian coastal charmers. The historical center of Trogir is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Primosten is super picturesque.
Start your day in Trogir, where you must wander the streets to admire the beautiful architecture, or take a walking tour. You’ll see numerous churches and palaces dating back to medieval times.
Trogir is actually located on an islet. Climb to the top of the bell tower at the St. Lawrence Cathedral or climb the walls at the Kamerlengo Fortress for panoramic views. Walk the lovely waterfront promenade.
In Primosten, enter the town through the beautiful gate near the water and climb the main street to the hilltop Church of Saint George. Walking the sleepy town with its beautiful stone houses is like stepping back in time.
The view of Primosten from the viewpoint on the coastal road is fabulous, so make sure you stop for photos! The beaches of Primosten are pebble beaches but they are fun to walk if you have proper shoes.
Getting from Zadar to Trogir and Primosten
The distance from Zadar to Trogir is about 81 miles, and in normal traffic, it will take you about one hour and 30 minutes to drive to Trogir from Zadar.
From Trogir to Primosten, the distance is about 21 miles, and in normal traffic, the drive will take you about 35 minutes. From Primosten to Zadar, the distance is about 70 miles, and the drive will take you about 1 hour and 30 minutes in normal traffic.
Take the bus if you wish to get to Trogir from Zadar using public transport! The journey time is about 2 hours and 45 minutes. There are frequent departures everyday. In Trogir, the bus station is just a 2-minute walk from the old town.
You can take the bus from Trogir to Primosten. The journey takes about 30 minutes, and there are several departures through the day. The old town is just a 3-minute walk from the bus stop in Primosten.
From Primosten, you can take the bus back to Zadar. There are evening departures that will get you to Zadar in about 2 hours.
By guided tour
Prefer a guided tour? Check out this private full day tour that combines a visit to Trogir with a visit to Split.
#7 Enjoy beach time in Nin
Nin is a beautiful old town not too far north of Zadar, with some of the best beaches in the area. So if you are looking to spend some quality time relaxing on a beach, Nin is the perfect day trip for you!
Nin is home to a tiny cathedral, one of the smallest in the world. In Nin, you’ll also find a Roman Forum, with the remains of a huge Roman Temple, the largest one on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea.
Croatia is known for its pebbly beaches, but in Nin you have a choice of several sandy beaches. Queen’s Beach is an almost 2-mile stretch of beautiful sand and shallow waters ideal for families. It is also called Kraljičina plaža.
Getting from Zadar to Nin
The distance from Zadar to Nin is about 10.5 miles, and in normal traffic, it will take you about 20 minutes to drive to Nin from Zadar.
If you wish to get to Nin from Zadar using public transport, take the bus! The journey time is about 30 minutes. There are frequent departures in both directions everyday. In Trogir, the bus station is just a 2-minute walk from the old town.
#8 Go boating on the Zrmanja River
The Zrmanja River is considered one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe, and from Zadar, you can do a day trip to the river via the town of Obrovac.
On the way from Zadar to Obrovac, you can access a dirt road from where you get a fabulous aerial view of the river. The viewpoint is called Pariževićeva Glavica.
In the town of Obrovac, you can join a boat tour that follows the Zrmanja River all the way to the Novigrad Sea. You get beautiful views of the karstic landscape and pass by old monasteries and churches.
For a more active visit, you can join a full day canoe or kayak trip from Kaštel Žegarski, near Obrovac. The river is quite calm, and the rapids and waterfalls small. The scenery is gorgeous!
Getting from Zadar to Obrovac
The distance from Zadar to Obrovac is about 28 miles, and in normal traffic, it will take you about 45 minutes to drive to Obrovac from Zadar.
Sadly, there are no convenient public transport options that work for a day trip to Obrovac.
By Guided tour
Consider this 5-hour canoe safari on the Zrmanja River, with transport from the main bus station in Zadar. You will get the opportunity to experience both the Zrmanja and the Krupa on a fun-filled adventure.
#9 Explore the island of Ugljan
Ugljan is the island closest to mainland Zadar: it is the island you can see from the waterfront in Zadar. With pretty towns and beautiful bays, Ugljan makes for a wonderful day trip from Zadar.
With biking paths and hiking trails, Ugljan is the perfect day trip destination if you are looking for an active day of exploration. On the other hand, you can just relax in Preko or at one of the beautiful beaches.
In Preko, you can wander the little town, or relax with a drink at the harbor. If you are feeling energetic, you can climb to the St. Michael’s Church for panoramic views of the island and the water.
You can walk from Preko to Kali along the coastal trail or rent a bike in Preko and bike to Kukljica or Ugljan. There are beautiful coves along the way where you can take a break to swim if you like!
Getting from Zadar to Ugljan Island
You can get to Preko on Ugljan Island from Zadar by ferry. Jadrolinija operates several ferry runs to and from Preko everyday. The journey time is about 25 minutes.
GETTING AROUND ON UGLJAN
So there you have it: my suggestions for the best day trips from Zadar, Croatia. Have you visited any of these spectacular day trip destinations? Comment below to respond! If you have yet to visit, I hope I have inspired you to consider adding a few of these amazing places to your plans for things to do in Zadar.
Finally, if you are nailing down accommodations for your visit to Zadar, we stayed at Art Hotel Kalelarga. Located just a short walk from the gate to Old Town Zadar on the main street, the hotel offers elegantly furnished rooms.
Our room on the top floor was super spacious and supremely comfortable. The bathroom was huge and well appointed, with a skylight. And the breakfast was delicious. We would not hesitate to stay here again!
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Photo License Preko: CC BY-SA 3.0